Is The Professor and the Madman a true story?

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Mel Gibson arrives at the UK Premiere of 'Daddy's Home 2' at Vue West End on November 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16: Mel Gibson arrives at the UK Premiere of 'Daddy's Home 2' at Vue West End on November 16, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Dave J Hogan/Dave J Hogan/Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

Is the book that The Professor and the Madman based on a true story?

The Professor and the Madman starring Hollywood A-listers Mel Gibson and Sean Penn is among the new movies coming to Netflix in December 2020. (Specifically, you can start streaming it on Dec. 15 when it’s added to Netflix movies.)

It’s based on a book by the same name. Well, basically.

Let’s first take a look at the book and then the story behind it, because it has a pretty interesting one.

The Professor and the Madman: The book

The first edition of the book by Simon Winchester that would later come to be titled The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary was released in England in 1998.

Its original title was The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words. The title was changed when it was released in the United States and Canada.

There’s a story behind everything, and in this case, it’s about the making of the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s categorized as a biography but has been described by readers as a detective mystery. A “riveting” one at that.

The true story of professor James Murray

The Professor and the Madman is about Sir James Murray. He was the editor-in-chief responsible for creating a comprehensive English language dictionary that would be published by the Oxford University Press.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary’s history page, the dictionary was supposed to be four-volumes comprised of 6,400 pages that would take 10 years to complete. Five years in, however, they hadn’t made much progress and realized they’d need help.

Murray put out a call for volunteers. Amateur philologists responded, but one, in particular, ended up proving particularly prolific: William Chester Minor.

The madman, William Chester Minor

William Chester Minor, a retired U.S. Army surgeon, was committed at the Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum for killing a man.

The book’s original title, The Surgeon of Crowthorne, refers to Minor, as the asylum was near the village of Crowthorne in Berkshire, England.

The Oxford English Dictionary lists Minor as a “principal contributor of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century quotations to the first edition of the Dictionary.”

Minor ended up contributing thousands of quotations for the dictionary.

True story

So, yep, the story that inspired the book, The Professor and the Madman, which then went on to inspire a movie adaptation is based on a true story.

You wouldn’t think a movie about creating a dictionary would be interesting, but take a look at the trailer. It might change your mind.

The Professor and the Madman trailer

Watch The Professor and the Madman on Netflix on Dec. 15.

dark. Next. 50 best movies on Netflix right now